Work in times of recession and crisis.

Published 23rd June 2021

It cannot be underestimated that good work is even more important in times of crisis and employers should consider this in planning their job roles and workforce.

The key points of good work are as follows:- 

  • Opportunity to develop skills
  • To have sense of fulfilment
  • The ability to make a living
  • To get fair reward for work done
  • Work is physically and mentally healthy
  • Work is accessible for all
  • A supportive environment with constructive relationships

The Covid 19 pandemic has brought a number of challenges but also some opportunities.

 The furlough scheme was introduced to protect jobs and limit job loss but has also been associated with a fear of job loss when the scheme ends, a lack of development during the scheme, social isolation with loss of mental and physical wellbeing.

Remote working has also had its problems but also many positive outcomes. Evidence has shown that home workers in general have improved autonomy, better workplace relationships and flexible working arrangements. However, they tend to suffer the trade off with blurring between work and home commitments. Many home workers have had to juggle home schooling and providing support for relatives.  It has also been evident that many have faced social isolation and loss of mental wellbeing. Even before lockdown many workers have been working at least 10 hours extra per week and this is likely to have increased during lockdown with the commuting time used to work instead. Many desk based workers have struggled with poor quality workstations and a negative impact on physical and mental wellbeing.

Key workers have also faced significant challenges with increased workloads, lack of resources, lack of flexibility and increased work pressures, also increased exposure to Covid infection. Key workers less likely to have flexible working arrangements. Their work is more likely to impact on personal responsibilities and they tend to have less job satisfaction despite many having potentially fulfilling roles. Many keyworkers have faced extremely distressing conditions at work. The challenges appear to be more problematic where shift patterns are fixed.

What can organisations do to plan for a stronger recovery?

1. Reflect on job design in your organisation

Good job design- autonomy, pace of work and how to do the work. It is important to gather data and engage with the employees to ensure job roles can be adapted for the future. Ensure fairness and a good working experience for everyone with hybrid working patterns and flexibility.

 2. Reflect on the trade- offs in job quality

It is possible to consider job development for all employees and is increasing workload inevitable?

 3. Prioritise skills development and alignment

Ensure all  the workforce is able to develop new skills and match skills to each job role.

4. Monitor workload

Consider the distribution of workload across the organisation, try to avoid overwork and discuss boundary setting. Can adequate resources be provided to deliver the tasks required for each job role? Can the working day be managed to ensure regular breaks?

5. Workplace relationships

Try to work on the positives of social cohesion, support and psychological safety.

Identify any negative behaviour patterns and address them immediately to avoid negative impact and potential legal implications.

Ensure line managers or HR maintain contact with furloughed employees and give support.

Ensure the line manager have adequate training and support to enable them to support the workforce- they have a key role in promoting wellbeing and being able to identify signs of poor wellbeing early.

6. Engage with furloughed workforce about the return to work

As the furloughed return to the workplace consider re- introduction programmes, Refresher courses, Training.

Encourage Line management to give support and guidance

Ensure Information about changes that have been made in the workplace are clearly communicated to the employees and engage in dialogue and listen to their concerns

7. Use employee representatives to channel the views of employees, the Employee Voice

Take an individual approach to wellbeing- having open and supportive conversations with employees. Do not make assumptions about the needs of employees.


As providers of Occupational health support for organisations, we would encourage all employers to invest in their workforce. Consider how to improve the mental and physical wellbeing for all your employees and this should result in a happier and more productive team.

Workplace Wellness is the trading name of Bradford on Avon Occupational Health Services Ltd.
Registered in England: 9749251
VAT no. 27144823278
Registered Office: 29 Bridge Street Bradford on Avon Wiltshire BA15 1BY

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